Participants in Year Up, a national workforce training program with an office in Seattle, saw their average earnings rise 53 percent after the program.

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A private job-training program for young adults without college degrees makes a significant difference in the lives of those who participate, a new federal study shows.

Participants in the nonprofit program called Year Up — which has a Seattle office — saw a 53 percent increase in the amount of money they earned after they finished the program, and two years later, those who participated continued to do significantly better than those who were in a control group.

In Seattle, the program currently has about 320 young adults enrolled.
The study is called Pathways for Advancing Careers & Education, and its goal is to follow “nine elite organizations across the country to build a body of evidence on the effectiveness of workforce programs for young adults after nearly four decades of mixed results from past research that cast a shadow of doubt on our field.” Year Up is the largest participant in the study, and its earnings impacts were the largest reported to date for workforce programs tested.

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Year Up is for 18- to 24-year-olds, most of whom are from low-income families, who have finished high school or a GED but haven’t yet settled into a career path. The 12-month program gives them a mix of academic coursework and professional skill-building, followed by on-the-job training.

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Fred Krug, executive director of Puget Sound’s Year Up program, said 85 to 90 percent of those who finish the program are either employed or enrolled in college four months after the program ends. Year Up has a partnership with Bellevue College, and many students begin studying there or at other area colleges, where they complete a certificate or get started on a two-year or four-year degree.

The program provides participants with a stipend, and helps them secure a $45,000 to $50,000-a-year starting job, he said.

It sounds almost too good to be true — so much so that many young people think it’s a scam when they first hear of it, Krug said. The best advertising for Year Up is young people who finished the program successfully and talk their friends into doing it too, Krug said. As well, United Way, the community colleges and the Seattle Housing Authority all refer young adults to the program.

Krug said the program looks for students who have grit, drive and motivation to succeed. The program emphasizes the importance of showing up on time every day, and being engaged in the work. “We have high expectations, and we offer high support,” such as helping participants knock down barriers like a lack of transportation or child care, he said.

The program partners with local companies, such as Microsoft, which has hosted more than 300 young adults from the program over the last three years and has hired a number of them.

Year Up is based on the program started in Boston in 2000 by Gerald Chertavian, a former tech company founder and Wall Street investment banker. His book “A Year Up,” published in 2012, tells the history of Year Up and outlines how the program works.